Battleship, Peter Berg, 131 mins (12A)
Delicacy, David & Stéphane Foenkinos, 108 mins (12A)
Bittersweet Tautou is a blessed relief after an earful of slimy green alien
Sunday 15 April 2012
For all the martial mayhem promised by its name, and by the painting on the box, I remember the game of Battleship as being a quiet, nerdy one, involving pencils, graph paper and frowning concentration.
The film, which is supposedly based on the game, doesn't have quite the same characteristics. A cross between Independence Day and Pearl Harbor, it's a trashy glorification of all things mechanical, especially things that make other things explode. It's also one of the loudest films you'll ever see. Moments of sombre reflection are married to AC/DC's greatest hits at full volume, while the action sequences are so ear-bleeding that even an electromagnetic signal zipping through the emptiness of outer space sounds as if someone's stuck a vacuum-cleaner in your ear.
It's this signal that attracts a squadron of alien spacecraft to our planet, but, unlike most extra-terrestrial invaders, they don't hover over the White House or crash land in the desert: they splash down in the sea off the coast of Hawaii. And then, instead of taking to the skies again, their ships hop through the ocean like gigantic, heavily armed porpoises. Unfortunately for them, it so happens that the world's navies have gathered nearby for a bridge-building exercise, which means that Taylor Kitsch (star of the ill-fated John Carter), Rihanna and Liam Neeson are ready to kick some slimy green butt.
Battleship is set in a universe where technologically superior aliens can be defeated by some cool stunt-driving and a right-hook to the jaw, and where the deaths of tens of thousands of innocent civilians are justified if they inspire the hero to ask his sexy blonde girlfriend's dad for her hand in marriage. But I admit I quite admired its bludgeoning energy and its hearty, unapologetic embrace of every post-Top Gun cliché. With a plot that makes reasonable sense, and a laugh-at/ laugh-with ratio of about 50:50, Battleship is cleverer and funnier than most blockbusters of its decibel level. It also allows Japanese seamen as well as Americans to be the heroes, while presenting the monsters as being far less bloodthirsty than the humans they're up against. If you really have to make a noisy, cheesy, militaristic alien invasion movie, then this is how it should be done.
All the same, it's a relief to sample the more refined flavours of Delicacy, a bittersweet Parisian comedy drama starring Audrey Tautou. Near the beginning of the film, her perfect husband is killed in a traffic accident, a very real danger for happy couples in the movies these days, if One Day and The Adopted are anything to go by.
Tautou's all-consuming grief is acutely observed and forcefully played, but eventually she begins her slow recovery. Two of the men in her office are particularly keen to help: her handsome boss (Bruno Todeschini), who doesn't see his marriage as any obstacle to their future together, and a lumbering Swedish subordinate (François Damiens) who wears so much beige that half of his co-workers haven't even noticed him.
Tautou is now so skinny that you keep expecting her to slip down a crack in the pavement, and the film as a whole doesn't have much more meat on it, in plot terms, but Delicacy serves up lots of tasty morsels to nibble on: the elegant ways in which it skips from day to day and year to year; hints dropped about the secret lives of its supporting characters; dresses that make the female staff of Mad Men look as if they've slouched in on Casual Friday.
Despite being underpinned by gnawing sadness, it's really a twinkly, playful Doris Day office comedy, if one that never explains what the characters actually do in their office.
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